1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites
Brazilian police in operation against suspected drug traffickers
Brazilian police were heavy handed for the gunfight against suspected gang membersImage: Silvia Izquierdo/AP Photo/picture alliance

Brazil: Deadly police raid targets Rio drugs gang members

May 6, 2021

At least two dozen people have died in a shoot-out in a police operation against an organized crime gang in Rio de Janeiro. It was one of the worst death tolls from a police raid in the city's history.


A shootout in Rio de Janeiro left at least 25 people dead on Thursday, in a police raid targeting drug traffickers.

It was the second highest-ever death toll from a police raid in the state, which has long been plagued by drug and gang-related violence. One police officer died in the violence. The rest of the deceased were suspected of being involved with gangs.

Police arresting suspects in Rio de Janeiro
Police said they managed to arrest several suspects despite the bloodshedImage: Jose Lucena/TheNEWS2/ZUMA Wire/picture alliance

"This number of deaths only compares to the massacres of Vigario Geral and of Baixada [21 and 29 deaths, respectively], but these were extra-legal operations. One must hold accountable the political agents responsible for this action," said the Study Group of New Illegalisms at the Federal Fluminense University (UFF) coordinator Daniel Hirata, according to the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper.

Police said they were attempting to infiltrate the Comando Vermelho (Red Commando) drug gang. Police added that they located the gang's headquarters in the Jacarezinho favela of Rio de Janeiro, and arrested at least ten suspects.

Blood inside a home after a police operation in Rio de Janeiro
The violence spilled inside of people's homesImage: Silvia Izquierdo/AP Photo/picture alliance

Passengers on a passing train were caught in the crossfire in Jacarezinho. At least two train passengers were injured by stray bullets. The fire brigade said they were not seriously hurt. After a temporary suspension, the train line was soon back in service.

A grenade on a rooftop in Rio de Janeiro
Some suspected gang members attempted to flee via the rooftopsImage: Silvia Izquierdo/AP Photo/picture alliance

Local residents were forced to stay inside during the gunfight. Globo TV images showed police fighting suspected criminals in the street. Some suspects fled via rooftop while carrying rifles. There have been several reports of bodies lying in alleyways and inside a house as well as accusations of home invasion and torture by the police.

Accused of using children

The Red Commando gang was accused of recruiting minors. The civil police reportedly carried out Operation Exceptis on Thursday morning, after receiving information from the Police Department for the Protection of Children and Adolescents.

Youths protest the police operation
Local residents protested the police operationImage: Silvia Izquierdo/AP Photo/picture alliance

The Red Commando is alleged to engage in drug trafficking, cargo robbery, and murder. The group hijacked Rio de Janeiro's rapid transit trains in December 2020 and again last month according to Brazilian media.

Brazil: The drug lord turned preacher

The operation occurred despite a Supreme Court ruling that bars police from carrying out raids in Brazil's favelas during the ongoing pandemic except in "absolutely exceptional circumstances."

kbd/rc (AFP, Reuters)

Skip next section DW's Top Story

DW's Top Story

three soldiers operating an M777 howitzer

Why is the US sending 'downgraded' weaponry to Ukraine?

Skip next section More stories from DW
Go to homepage